BEST LITTLE SUV YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Mon, Mar 7, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John-Fredrik Wright Setting aside the Volt, Camaro and Corvette, which are niche vehicles, and focusing on Chevrolet’s bread-and-butter offerings, not much from the brand has really left an impression with me the last couple of years. There’s nothing wrong with their cars and trucks, but they don’t really light my fire. Given this, my expectations were not that high when the Equinox showed up in my driveway. The exterior of the car didn’t disappoint, but neither did it captivate me. Somewhat bland, it leaves me wanting a little more. I’m not quite sure what’s missing, maybe a more expressive exterior. This way it will at least be saying something, good or bad.
Stepping into the Equinox, on the other hand, reveals something entirely different. Reminding me of the very luxurious interior of the Buick Enclave, the Equinox (which is not quite as big as the Enclave) has a lush leather interior with appealing interior features. The mid-console looks like it came directly out of a luxury car. Impressive! The knobs and dials of the Equinox are intuitive and easily understandable. It doesn’t seem as if you’re in a crossover (I would however argue that the Equinox is more of a SUV than a crossover), rather in an estate automobile. Inside, it feels more like a cruiser than an off-roader. Speaking of cruising, the 182-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is a little slow off the line. Accelerating is not always a thrill, to put it mildly. You will not be leaving anybody in the dust, even on a dirt road. Once the car picks up speed, it drives and handles nicely, not as wobbly as one might expect from a large American car. Apart from the lack of rapid acceleration slowing down any quick decisions the driver might make, the Equinox is easy to drive. The upside of the smaller engine (compared to the larger 264-horsepower 3.0-liter V6) is, of course, that it does not guzzle in the same fashion as many other large cars, which is always appreciated. 32 miles per gallon (highway) goes a long way these days, 600 miles between fill-ups, according to Chevrolet, and with the ECO-button, you might be able to push it even further.
The OnStar system is available on cars and trucks from GM. Unfortunately, those are the only cars and trucks where the service is available (for now). I say unfortunately, because that makes the choice of cars a tad harder. Having the option of OnStar is actually a pretty great USP (unique selling point) on GM’s side. If I were deciding between two cars, a GM vehicle with OnStar will win, all else being equal. Not only is it very convenient to at the push of a button get an actual person on the line who knows more about where you are than you do yourself, it also is a great way to get access to information you need on the fly. What city am I in? What is the non-emergency number to the Police here? Where is the nearest Krispy Kreme? OnStar has helped me find places I didn’t really know the name of (a true story—I am impressed), as well as just give a quick answer to “should I turn right here or continue forward to get to the 405? OnStar does much of their marketing using stories of when the system has been able to assist in an emergency. That is a good marketing ‘hook’, which has kinda gotten to me as well. It will make me feel a lot more at ease knowing that my spouse can quickly receive the help she needs if something should go wrong—even if she doesn’t know where she is, or is not able to ask for the help herself. Enough about OnStar. But why don’t other manufacturers get something similar? Another neat option available on the Equinox is the remote start feature. For someone who drives between the home garage and a garage at the workplace, the remote start is merely a cool thing to show your friends. But, there is actual usefulness found in this feature. LA does see some pretty warm summer days, and it is during those days that every minute that the car spends cooling down before you get in it is great—even if it’s only during the two minutes it takes for you to get out from Vons, pack your grocery bags into the back, return your cart, and get back to the car. The AC will already have started to get the car down to a more hospitable temperature.
Now, in the other temperature extreme, cold, remote start is actually even more useful. In LA, cooling the car is merely a convenience, but in much colder climates, warming up the car (including the engine) is not only great for comfort, but also wears less on the engine itself. Driving off instantly while the engine is still freezing cold doesn’t do it any favors. Letting it warm up a little is a good thing. Check with your engine, it’ll agree. As a personal aside, I can mention that where I grew up (Sweden), my mother often leaves the house at 04.00. In February, it might be 5°F at that time of day, so a remote start is very nice in that situation. Unfortunately, in Sweden, as in most of Northern Europe, cities have a stated limit for just how long a car can sit at idle (usually 1 minute in Sweden) so the use of a remote start could be problematic. In summation, while the exterior might not be the Equinox’s strong point, it is certainly a far cry from being homely. It is a big car, without being too big, and the interior does make you feel as if you are in something completely different (think luxury car)—plenty of room for people and their toys. And there are certainly a great amount of available options to choose from. Increase the road-trip-readiness with dual screens in the back for movie-watching? Activate your OnStar? Remote Start? The Equinox does a great job as an all-around crossover vehicle, and with all the extra gadgets and luxurious interior, it might pull off being the small son-of-an-Enclave.
SIDEBAR COMMENT I’ll have to differ with my colleague on the design of this newest Equinox. Compared to its competition, the exterior styling is quite handsome to these eyes. It has a nice, sculptured metal look, and I particularly like the way the C pillar sweeps back into the D pillar. It’s definitely a big improvement over the first Equinox. On the other hand, JF and I are on the same wavelength as far as the interior goes. The Equinox simply has the best-looking interior in its class—especially in the premium LTZ package. And for those who want more power, Chevy offers a 264-horsepower V6 that’s not much more in dollars over the 2.4-liter four. Best of all, the Chevy dealers are dealing on this car. For the price, it’s hard to beat in the compact crossover class. – Roy Nakano For more information, go to www.chevrolet.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ Price: $22,745 (base LS model) $28,320 (tested LTZ model—includes perforated leather-appointed seating with heated front seats, power-programmable liftgate, Ultrasonic rear parking assist, Rearview Camera System, memory settings for driver seat and exterior mirrors, Pioneer® Premier 250-watt 8-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio and AM/FM in-dash single CD player with CD MP3 Playback, chrome door handles, outside power-adjustable mirrors and roof rack side rails with bright chrome inserts) EPA fuel economy rating: 22 city/32 highway miles per gallon Engine size and type: ECOTEC 2.4L 4-cylinder (standard, as tested) 3.0L V6 Engine(7) with E85 FlexFuel Capability (optional) Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6700 rpm (ECOTEC .4L) 264 hp V6 is optional Torque: 172 pound-feet @ 4900 rpm (ECOTEC 2.4L) Transmission type: 6-speed automatic Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive optional) Steering (type): Power-assisted rack and pinion Suspension (front and rear): Four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link rear suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars Dimensions Length: 187.8 inches Width: 72.5 inches Height: 69.3 inches Curb weight: 3823 pounds